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Time to Make a Change
A/N: In Gaffer’s story at The Ivy Bush about the deaths of Frodo’s parents, he speaks of Gorbadoc Brandybuck as if he were alive. But according to the Brandybuck family tree, Gorbadoc died in 1363, five years before Frodo was born. I don’t know if it was a mistake of the Gaffer’s, or a mistake of Tolkien’s, but in this story, Gorbadoc is long dead, and Old Rory Brandybuck is the Master of Buckland.
2: Waters of the Brandywine (Drogo and Primula Baggins)
Frodo Baggins loved visiting Brandy Hall as much as his father did. Drogo had enjoyed the visits because old Gorbadoc Brandybuck had always held the most glorious feast. Even after Gorbadoc had died, his eldest son, Rorimac, kept up the tradition.
Frodo’s reason was different. He loved going to Brandy Hall because his cousin’s wife was there. Auntie Esmie (as Frodo liked to call her, since her husband, Saradoc, was a lot older than Frodo and so seemed more like an uncle than a cousin) was always happy to look after Frodo if Primula and Drogo wanted time to themselves. And Frodo adored her. In fact, Auntie Esmie was one of Frodo’s favourite relatives (after his Uncle Bilbo, of course!).
The only problem with Brandy Hall was that there were always too many hobbits around (that was probably one of the reasons that Frodo preferred his visits to Bag-End). Fortunately, Auntie Esmie knew where to find the most quiet and deserted rooms, so that she and Frodo could spend a pleasant day together.
On this particular visit, Drogo and Primula celebrated their fifteenth wedding anniversary. Anniversaries were always a good excuse for a party (almost as good as birthdays, for presents were rarely given out on anniversaries), and since Primula, as the youngest sister of Old Rory, Master of Buckland, was so well loved, a huge banquet was held in their honour.
Frodo did not remember much of the night. There were far too many introductions that he forgot only moments after they had been made. Since his parents were the honoured guests, he stuck close to Esmeralda early in the night, but when she found her brother, Frodo decided to leave. Paladin Took had brought along the newest addition to his family, daughter Pimpernel, who was barely one year old. Esmie had not seen her since the birth, so spend a great deal of time fussing over the baby. Frodo slipped away, fortunately to find his Uncle Bilbo standing nearby.
“Frodo, my lad!” Bilbo greeted. “How are you?”
Frodo shrugged, but smiled all the same. He was glad to have found someone to talk to. “Bored. Auntie Esmie keeps introducing me to all these cousins and I can’t remember any of their names!”
Bilbo laughed. “I can understand that, but there’s nothing wrong with having lots of cousins. I’m having quite a time myself. All I can remember is little Pimpernel Took, Fredegar Bolger and Everard Took.”
Frodo nodded as he remembered those names as being among the many he had learnt that day. It seemed to him that everyone was having babies.
“How long will you be in Buckland?” Frodo asked, at length.
It was Bilbo’s turn to shrug. “When Primula told me that she and your father would be celebrating their anniversary here, I knew I’d have to come along. It’s been a while since I last visited Buckland, so I think I should at least stay a little while. Perhaps I will head back to Hobbiton when your family does.”
Frodo’s grin widened. He had hoped Bilbo would say that. Now he had his two favourite relatives in the one place!
Frodo remained with Bilbo for the remainder of the party. He loved hearing his Uncle’s tales about his grand adventure. Sometimes Frodo imagined himself joining Bilbo, sneaking into Smaug’s lair, or flying to the Great Eagles eyries. Eventually, though, the celebrations wore down. Primula found Frodo and, after thanking Bilbo for making sure the lad enjoyed himself, took her son to their room in the Hall. Despite him being twelve years old (and, thus, in his mind, all grown up), she still liked to baby him, and he rarely complained (as long as no one else saw).
“Your father and I are going out for a picnic tomorrow,” she said to him. “Auntie Esmie is going to look after you. Remember to be good for her.”
Primula placed a soft kiss on Frodo’s forehead. He never dreamed that it would be the last time he would feel her gentle touch or hear her voice.
When Frodo woke, he had a queer, sick feeling in his stomach. He was alone in the room that his family shared on their trips to Buckland (it had been Primula’s bedroom before she had married). His parents had already left for their picnic. Esmeralda came to the door and, smiling, took him to the dining room for breakfast. The sick feeling in his stomach soon lessened, but it did not altogether disappear.
They had a wonderful day together. First, they made a cake, then they tidied Frodo’s part of the room – with Auntie Esmie, even chores could be fun. Uncle Sarry joined them for morning tea – they ate the cake that they had made earlier – but he had to leave soon afterwards. Esmeralda explained that he had a lot of work to do with his father. She took Frodo to the library after lunch, and read him one if his favourite books (Frodo didn’t like to tell her that he much preferred Uncle Bilbo’s stories).
After she had finished the story, Esmie pulled Frodo into a hug and gently stroked his hair. “When I have a son, Frodo, I hope that he is as sweet, caring and beautiful as you.”
Frodo smiled up at her. “When you have a son, I will look after him like my own little brother.”
They ate afternoon tea together, but without Saradoc. It wasn’t until dinnertime approached that Esmie started to worry. Primula and Drogo should have been back hours ago. She reasoned with herself that they had probably just been enjoying themselves far too much, and would be back soon. But dinner passed, and so did supper, with no sign of them. Frodo’s eyes grew large with worry.
“Where’s Mamma and Father?” he asked, in a quiet voice. “They should have been back by now.”
“I don’t know, Frodo,” Esmeralda replied. “I wish I did.”
Eventually, Esmeralda had to put Frodo to bed. The look of worry on his face mirrored her own, but still, she tried to assure him that everything would be fine.
When Primula and Drogo had not returned the next morning, all of Buckland set out to find them. It did not take long for them to find what was left of the boat they had taken out onto the river. A young Maggot lad was unfortunate to find Primula washed up a mile down the river, and Drogo was not far away.
Esmeralda’s heart shattered. How was she going to tell Frodo?
* * * * * *
Frodo, at his Aunt’s request, had remained at Brandy Hall while the search was carried out. He sat in the library and read his father’s favourite book. At least, he tried to read it. His eyes were too clouded with tears to make out the words.
Esmeralda knew exactly where to find him. He looked up at her. She didn’t have to say anything; the look on her face told him everything. She opened her arms and he ran into her embrace. They cried together for several hours, neither able to speak.
Finally, Esmeralda found her voice. “They drowned Frodo, my sweet. They must have taken a boat out onto the river. We found the boat, and we found them… Oh, Frodo, I’m so sorry.”
“I knew something bad was going to happen,” Frodo whispered. “I had an awful feeling all day. What’s going to happen to me now?”
“I will look after you, Frodo, just as I always have.”
* * * * * *
The funeral of his parents was a memory that haunted Frodo long after he started to forget their faces and the sounds of their voices. Primula and Drogo had been greatly loved, not just in Buckland and Hobbiton, but also in Tookland and most of the Shire. Frodo had never much cared for crowds, and at the funeral, it was unbearable.
Frodo found sanctuary in the garden of the home he had spent his short life in. It had been sold only days earlier. Frodo was to return to Buckland with Saradoc and Esmeralda Brandybuck. His heart fluttered. Brandy Hall was nice to visit, but could he really live there? And what about Bilbo? While he lived in Hobbiton, it was easy for him to visit Uncle Bilbo. At least twice a week, Frodo would end up on Bilbo’s doorstep, begging for a story about his adventure with the dwarves. Frodo suddenly wondered if he’d ever go to Hobbiton again. Auntie Esmie very rarely visited Hobbiton. She only ever left Buckland to visit her brother in Tookland, or occasionally, one of her sisters who lived in the North-farthing.
Bilbo found him in the garden as these thoughts rushed through the lad’s mind. He sighed, “My poor, poor lad.”
Frodo turned and ran into his uncle’s outstretched arms. He cried until there wasn’t a tear left in him.
It was almost as if Bilbo had read Frodo’s mind. “Now Frodo, you know that you are always welcome at Bag-End, whenever you want to visit. There’s plenty of room, and I would enjoy the company. Why, next time you could come and meet Ham Gamgee’s new little lad, Sam. He’s only tiny now, but I’ll bet he’ll be a stout little fellow in no time at all.”
Frodo sniffled, and accepted the pocket-handkerchief that Bilbo offered him. “I would like that, Uncle Bilbo.”
“Good lad.” The two of them sat on a bench. Bilbo lightly stroked Frodo’s hair, and wondered what it would have been like if he had ever had children of his own.
Frodo snuggled into Bilbo’s embrace. He was surprised when he realised how much it felt like he was in his father’s arms.
* * * * * *
A/N: I know a lot of people have Frodo’s family living in Buckland before the “accident”, but Gaffer does say that “Mr Drogo was staying at Brandy Hall”, and since the Baggins lived chiefly in Hobbiton, I had Frodo’s home originally in Hobbiton. The next chapter will jump quite a few years forward, and belongs to Sam.
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